With Flames having stranglehold on trade market, patience could maximize returns

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joins the Jeff Marek Show to discuss the potential obstacles that could prevent a trade between the Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils for goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

CALGARY – The New Jersey Devils woke up Monday morning a full seven points out of a wild card spot, making it increasingly hard to believe they’d mount another significant push to acquire Jacob Markstrom anytime soon.

Then again, they have two games in hand on the Tampa squad they’re chasing, making it all the more likely the Lightning press even harder to find blue line help in the form of, say, Noah Hanifin.

The Lightning are five points back of catching the Leafs, who know the best way to stave anyone off is to add a warrior like Chris Tanev.

Notice a pattern here?

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With the trade deadline just 11 sleeps away, the Calgary Flames continue to have a stranglehold on the NHL’s trade deadline market, employing three of the most desirable assets up for grabs.

The likelihood of a Markstrom swap continues to be low, given he has two years left on his contract, he controls the situation and very few teams have the desire or means to make a deal of that magnitude happen this late in the season.        

However, as pending UFAs who won’t re-sign in Calgary, Tanev and Hanifin are unquestionably on their way out of town.

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The question is when.

Flames management (and the fans) balance their anxiety over potential injury to either defenceman with the likelihood that every day they wait the haul could be bigger.

Every additional day they remain on Calgary’s payroll gives teams time to continue accruing much-needed cap space, while also plumping up bidding wars between potential suitors.

Teams could also lose players to injury in the next week-and-a-half, making some trade partners even more desperate to fill holes.

It also served the Flames well when Hanifin was the first star in Saturday’s Battle of Alberta, with two goals, three points, seven shots and a shutdown effort that kept Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from scoring.

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There’s an increasing realization around the league that the slick-skating 27-year-old is just entering his prime as one of the league’s best two-way defenders, whose 11th goal set a new scoring high to demonstrate there is still plenty of upside to his offensive game.

That’s why the Flames tried signing him to an eight-year extension for a reported $60 million, a deal he recently rejected to get the trade wheels in motion.

Much like the swap that sent Elias Lindholm to Vancouver, Hanifin should net the Flames a first-round draft pick, top prospect and roster player, at the very least.

The return for Tanev should involve at least two pieces, including a second-rounder the Flames can get from any number of teams.

The goal is to get a first-rounder.

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Thus, the wait continues, prompting GM Craig Conroy to wince every time Tanev throws his 34-year-old frame in front of a shot. 

With four games left before the March 8 deadline hits, Conroy is also able to keep one of the league’s best shutdown pairings intact, which isn’t insignificant considering the Flames have won three in a row against juggernauts to stay on the fringe of the west’s wild-card race.

A Nashville win Sunday put the Flames five back of the final playoff berth.

For an organization that has regularly mortgaged its future to bolster a group that has regularly landed the club smack dab in the middle of the standings, this year’s deadline offers a unique opportunity Conroy has vowed to take full advantage of.

With a recognition the core of the club needed revamping, Conroy shipped out his top centre in Lindholm and is on the precipice of trading two of the city’s most beloved players.

Yet, the fanbase couldn’t be happier.

With a new building on the horizon, Flames fans have been clamouring for a shakeup that Conroy has already started providing.  

The injection of youth in the lineup has inspired veterans like Nazem Kadri and kept the Flames competitive despite the Lindholm trade and the Nikita Zadorov swap that sent him to the Canucks for two draft picks.

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Those two trades, and the one that sent Tyler Toffoli to Jersey for Yegor Sharangovich and a third-rounder, have given locals plenty of faith in Conroy’s ability to navigate these upcoming deals effectively.

Patience has been Conroy’s biggest virtue throughout his first season at the helm, which is why Flames fans needn’t fear how long it’s taking to broker these important swaps.

Every day longer the Flames trade drama is unresolved is almost certainly a good thing.

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